The Gary Public Transportation Corp. board by a vote of 5-0 on Thursday approved a new bus route in Hammond, which will pick up riders left stranded when the Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority went out of business two years ago.
The GPTC board at it regular meeting at the Metro Center also approved changes to the current Tri-City Connections route so it can serve the East Chicago South Shore commuter rail station along with other locations.
The goal is to have the new services start May 5, said David Wright, GPTC planning and marketing director. The new Hammond route will be called Lakeshore South and the rerouted Tri-City will be called Lakeshore Connx.
The Lakeshore South route will serve Purdue University Calumet as well as shopping centers and medical centers in the neighboring communities of Munster and Highland. It will attract an estimated 45,000 riders.
Wright emphasized that there will be no changes in Gary services due to the changes in East Chicago and Hammond.
Thursday's action came 20 months after Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson at a City Hall news conference laid out a road map for GPTC to expand regional transit just days after the demise of the RBA.
At a public hearing before the board meeting, former RBA and Hammond rider Richard Jones said it will be good to be able to again ride to local shopping plazas.
"Basically, I'm glad it's going to bring new life to what was a dead system," Jones said.
The board Thursday also approved adding a new North Lakeshore route to serve Hammond and Whiting if the required local share of $70,058 can be found to fund it. So far, no one has stepped up to contribute that money, Wright said.
GPTC buses serve passengers in eight communities in Northwest Indiana. In 2013, ridership increased 5 percent, according to GPTC ridership data.